Poor Michael

In the past year, we have picked up a new saying: Poor Michael.

Picture this: 90-something degree summer heat, high humidity, late afternoon. I’m on my bicycle and get a flat. I have my phone with me, and call Michael, the husband. Luckily I am near-ish to a road that cars can drive on. Maybe a quarter-mile. He says he’s on the way.

I start walking and take off the uncomfortable bike shoes, the kind with the awkward cleats on the bottom. Pavement’s hot, naturally, so I walk in the grass.

A few minutes later I get stung by ants. Cuss. Keep walking. I forget that the gate with car access to my particular road is locked at a certain time so I have to walk a little farther. Few trees on the road for shade. I get sunburned.

Michael shows up and I’m reddened, tired, sweaty and have ant bites and sore feet. He loads my bike in his truck. I’m grateful for his aid.

A few minutes later I call my mother and tell her what happened and that my husband had to come to the rescue and you know what she says? “Poor Michael.”

(The context: I come from a long line of Southern women who would go without food, clothing or shelter or crawl through the desert as long as The Man got helped first. Though I believe in serving My Main Man, I think some of this “servanthood” of old was out of whack.)

After my mom introduced this phrase we often say, “poor Michael” whenever one of us, or someone we know, is suffering something big, or even small.

I have thought of this in recent days because on Tuesday it will be poor Michael for real. He is having a biopsy. In the past month, he has endured various tests and scans of his bladder that have led to this point.

The “c word” looms.

I was on the ledge emotionally at first, especially when he woke me to say he needed to go to the ER, but not so much now. Partly due to my place of employment (an inpatient hospice unit) and partly because of an over-active imagination, I automatically pictured him in one of the rooms.

Fear was ever-present. I could see some of our staff coming around with their concerned and compassionate faces. “This is it. This is the end,” I thought. (And yes, I have been searching on “the Googles.”)

Closer to Tuesday, I have been more calm, which is weird. But I’ll take it. I pray to know what I CAN control, if I can’t control the dates on the calendar or what’s going on in his body. I can do things like: go to work and to church, cut the grass, pay the bills, laugh, scream, work out, socialize, eat and read and sleep. One day I wanted to throw a plate against the wall but decided not to.

We are surrounded by wonderful family, friends and our community of faith. Many people are already praying for us. One day my priest, knowing how much I was obsessing, simply said: “Stop.” She helped tremendously.

Michael’s journey thus far is his story to tell. He has his own reactions, thoughts and emotions. True to his personality, though, he is basically his same, witty, grounded self.

The waiting is hardest, I think, and my patience has been tested. We’ve been looking for answers for most of this month. Then comes a biopsy and of course you usually don’t get a quick read with that.

So we wait, poor Michael and I.